Archive for the ‘Puzzle’ Category

Chains Review

March 16, 2009
Chains for Windows PC

Chains for Windows PC

Chains features vector graphics and physics driven stages

Chains features vector graphics and physics driven stages

Review by Meg

Game by 2Dengine
Website

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Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 8
Sound: 3
Appeal: 8

Final: 89%

Grade: B

The goal of Chains is to connect 3 or more bubbles of a matching color, a pretty typical puzzle game goal. Matching colors to pop bubbles is hardly new, but what separates Chains from Puzzle Bobble, Snood, Bejeweled or even bilging on Puzzle Pirates, is the special bubble physics of Chains. Falling bubbles interact with each other, bouncing or pushing each other into different places, so they’re not just falling into obvious spots. It’s simoultaneously relaxing to watch and more challenging to play.

Gameplay: The best games have simple rules and complex challenges. Chains has some of the simplest rules in puzzle games, just match three or more balls. You could explain the rules to a new player in a minute, but that doesn’t mean the game is easy or childish. There are endless ways to change and refine your strategy.

Each level of Chains presents a different challenge, like making the longest chain possible, racing the clock to get a certain number of bubbles cleared, and so forth. In Exact Change, bubbles of different sizes have weighted values, and players need to create a chain worth exactly the specified amount. In The Stream, bubbles are falling down a river and must be cleared quickly enough to keep the river from backing up. In Coathanger, bubbles fall onto a precariously balanced coathanger, spilling off the heavier side. Using that simple mechanic of clicking three or more bubbles to clear them, players have to adapt
their strategy to each new challenge.

Graphics: On Gravity, bubbles are attracted to a midscreen center of gravity, unless they collide with another bubble. This level is almost hypnotic. Overall, the bubble physics were amazing.

Each level consists of a dynamic pattern of bubbles in front of a
static background graphic. I don’t know what is going on with the
vaguely floral designs in the background, though. They do add
psychadelic decor to the magenta, yellow and lime bubbles, but the
game doesn’t really have a cohesive look or feel.

Sound/Music: Um… no. I shut the sound off pretty early on because
the theme music was annoying and repetitive. Or was that because I played the game too long? Some puzzles were perfect for playing on the phone, so you’ll probably want the music off anyway so your clients think they’ve got your undivided attention.

Lasting Appeal: With so many puzzle games, it’s hard for one to stand out. I think the variety of difficulty levels and different challenges makes it easy to find either a relaxing game for a quick break or a frustratingly difficult puzzle. You’ll be playing this at least until the next puzzle game comes along.

Check it out for a fun puzzle game… but don’t bother with the sound.

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Spooky Spirits Review

December 10, 2008

Spooky Spirits is a puzzle game where you help a brother & sister team fight off ghosts and ghouls with your block building skills. While there is nothing spooky about the game, it does have a haunted house theme, trick-or-treat graphics and a ghost-busting story line to drive the missions.

Gameplay: 8/10
The object of Spooky spirits is to recapture all of the spirits that have escaped by matching colored blocks together and blowing them up ala Puzzle Fighter. You start with different colored blocks along the bottom of the screen. You then select 2 blocks at a time from the top of the screen to fall on the blocks below. What is nice about Spooky Spirits is you can select what colors fall by reordering some of the blocks. This allows you to have more strategy and build large blocks quickly. To get rid of your blocks, you must have a ghost block of the same color touching. Once the ghost block falls, your color blocks explode giving you points and filling up your Spirit Meter. Once your meter is full, you can move onto the next round. The game play of Spooky Spirits is simple and something that casual gamers can pick up quickly and enjoy. As an avid puzzle gamer, I did have some gripes with the game. The levels progressed in difficulty too quickly. This would certainly cause frustration for some gamers. Another issue was with the game play itself. Not being able to rotate pieces in space limits your ability to make larger blocks as well as avoid filling your blocks too quickly. Allowing you to swap colors before they drop is a highlight that is countered by the designers decision to only allow you to drop the 2 piece blocks horizontally.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics in this game were a highlight for me and what initially drew me to play. The child like Halloween feel was perfect for the fall. While the actual game itself does not have much in the way of animation, the story portion has excellent high quality graphics that give the game a signature feel.
Sound: 6/10
The music is appropriate for the game’s spooky theme, but wasn’t something that you found yourself humming later in the day. The Sound FX were minimal during gameplay and appropriate for a casual puzzle game like this. Becky & Tim’s mumbled speech between levels was a tad annoying.
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
While Spooky Spirits has a lot going for it on an initial play through, the lack of multi-player and length of levels hurt its lasting appeal. In it’s favor are 2 additional modes. After finishing the first 2 levels (a total of 12 puzzles) I found myself not really caring what happened next. This game is fun to pick up and play but not one you have to go back to every night.
Average: 70%
Tilt: +/- 0.00%
Overall Spooky Spirits is a fun Halloween themed puzzle game that will occupy a few hours of your time, but will not draw you to your computer day after day.
Verdict: 70%

World of Goo Review

October 18, 2008

World of Goo is the first game from Indie Game Studio, 2D Boy. Founded by Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, 2D Boy’s goal (according to their website) is to “make games that everyone can play, with gameplay nobody has seen before.” Well, they have certainly met this goal with World of Goo. World of Goo is hard to pigeon hole into one game genre. I guess if I had to label it I would describe it as a goo-construction physics puzzle action game. Basically, you drag and drop goo balls to build towers, bridges etc. towards a vacuum pipe that sucks up all the remaining goos. The game is definitely out there and utterly unique, but it’s also incredibly sublime.

Gameplay: 10/10
Pros: The gameplay is unlike any other game out there. It’s sort of like building with K’nex…except their goo balls with little personalities. Each level poses a brand new challenge and the game controls are pretty basic (drag & click). The game introduces new goos at a great pace which helps keep the puzzles and goo building fresh. There’s sort of a story and its interestingly told.
Cons: The game is over too fast, but great games always are. Large goo structures can be tricky to build and frustrating tip over…but the limited level skips are always enough to keep you moving along the campaign.

Graphics: 10/10
Pros: The art style is probably the best thing about the game. It is very odd…especially the cutscenes and some of the level pieces (Girl Goo Heads, Wacky Hands, Creepy Robot Heads, etc) but utterly charming. The game’s first chapter is very clean and colorful…but as the game progresses the art style starts permeating through and gets weirder and weirder along with the wacky story. All this oddity is a good thing though. The visuals never get boring and the presentation and execution is excellent.


Sound/Music: 10/10
Pros: The music perfectly fits the art style and mood, but what really makes the games auditory experience so excellent are the sound effects. Goo giggles, mumbles gibberish, inflates, etc. and the People of World of Goo speak emphatic gibberish as well…but all along the way convey emotion. That coupled with the sheer humor of the it all makes it incredibly enjoyable.


Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: There are 5 Chapters and an Epilogue, with each world having a decent number of levels (~10) but when a game is this enjoyable and completely lacks tedium you always want more. The Global Ranking score system add replayability and the meta game of using extra goo to build the tallest tower also adds longevity to the title.
Cons: Ultimately the game can be beaten over a weekend and every level played.

Average: 95.00%
Tilt: +2.00%

What it comes down to is that World of Goo is one of the finest and most original games I have played in recent years. It may not be the longest experience, but much like XBLA’s Braid, Goo maintains an interest and high quality throughout every level of the game. The game is a fantastic experience that will be thoroughly enjoyed, but then you can move on. This approach to indie games is excellent because ultimately and indie studio cannot compete with the longevity of a commercial studio game. This is what they do best – Wow you with originality, art style and uniqueness and offer you a fantastic experience for the fraction of the price of a full scale commercial title. World of Goo is an exceptional game at an exceptional price. There’s really no excuse not to experience the creativity, art, and fun that permeates this game.

Verdict: 97%

Professor Fizzwizzle Review

October 13, 2008


Let me start off by saying that Grubby Games has some of the absolute best kid’s games on the market. That’s not to say the appeal of Professor Fizzwizzle is only for kids, just that it has an excellent pace, graphics, sounds for kids, not to mention the problem-solving puzzles that make up the levels of the game. I must admit to using the “Solve Puzzle” feature on quite a few occasions myself. This feature is brilliant because at the moment a level gets frustrating and you feel it is impossible, you can simply pause and click for the solution. This definitely decreases the frustration factor and keeps you playing into the later levels. Prof. Fizzwizzle also keeps things interesting by adding new puzzle elements at a good pace from level to level. This keeps things from getting repetitive. In fact, my only major complaint with Prof. Fizzwizzle is that the gameplay is not for gamers. To the game’s defense, it was not designed to appeal to the hardcore 2D gamers of yesteryear, the graphics whores of today’s consoles, or the FPS/RTS pc crowd. This is a casual game, and if you take it as such, it is hard to find fault.

Gameplay: 8/10
Pros: Puzzles can be very challenging and continually add new elements or twists on old elements to keep things fresh. A plethora of modes and types of puzzles.
Cons: Actual Gameplay is simplistic. You use the arrow keys to move the professor around and that’s really it, besides the occasional power-up. Perfect for casual gamers, but not for me.


Graphics: 8/10
Pros: Graphics are clean, simple, and perfectly themed for the game. Animations are REALLY good.
Cons: Lack of WOW factor. More game objects animated as well as the Professor!

Sound/Music: 9.5/10
Pros: Music is perfect, catchy and subdued. The last thing you want is some crazy rock music while you are trying to solve a puzzle. Sound is unintrusive as well.
Cons: Sound/Music are not show stealers, but they are not meant to be, especially in a game like this.

Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: Tons of different levels, modes, and sets of puzzles. If you get tired with the included puzzles there is a level editor and a ton of downloadable levels on Grubby Games’ website.
Cons: What more could you ask for?

Average: 88.75
Tilt: +0.25

Grubby Games knows the casual market. Professor Fizzwizzle has won tons of critical acclaim, awards, etc. and I’m sure has sold tons of copies as well. It understands exactly the type of people that enjoy and buy these types of games and offers a huge repetoire of levels and features for them. Console gamers, PC gamers, and old school gamers alike could enjoy this game…will they shell out the cash to buy it…I doubt it….but the casual gamer will and will love that they did. Rarely have I seen a casual game that is 1: an Original Idea 2: not some sort of match 3 or bejeweled clone 4: more than a simple click here/there game…ahem…cake mania and diner dash and 5: actually worth $20. What does Professor Fizzwizzle really do best? It offers you a tremendous value at $20, because of the number of levels, downloadable levels, and ability to make your own levels. If you enjoy this game, you will not stop playing it due to a lack of features…that’s for sure.

Verdict: 89%
If you are interested in Professor Fizzwizzle and would like to support us and Grubby Games you can:

Download the Free Demo
Buy It Now!

Super Jazzman Review

October 13, 2008

Super Jazzman is a real homage to the classic 2D Adventure games popularized on the PC in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. It offers a great adventure experience if that’s a genre you enjoy and have missed, but has a few flaws that keep it from greatness. In the end though, if you like adventure games and feel the need for one and a charming one at that, then Jazzman is for you.

Gameplay: 9/10
Pros: The same mind bending puzzles and click interface make it into Jazzman. Click to use, look at, move, etc. standard move set/controls in a game genre long forgotten. Anyone remember Lost Secret of the Rainforest?…just checking
Cons: The excitement of these games is never in the gameplay, but rather figuring out what to do. There’s also no replay value in these adventures since once you figure it all out and get the story, you’re ready to move on since figuring out the mystery and what to do next is the whole point of the game.

Graphics: 7/10
Pros: The graphics are well animated and have excellent sprite and pixel work…\
Cons: …the problem is that the game window is incredibly small…like 320 x 200 pixels or something. It’s really hard to see the object you need to pick up when it’s a whole 10 pixels.

Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: The sounds are all done really well and fit the mood of the music. I love the walking echo.
Cons: There’s not really any music and the sounds are somewhat minimal. It is nice to not have elevator music repeating over and over as you are trying to figure out where Jazzman should fly to next.

Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: This is hard one for me to judge since I haven’t played the whole adventure, but so far it’s been a charming story that works well.
Cons: As stated earlier, the nature of these games is the initial puzzle solving and figuring out the story. Like most books, you’ll read it (or in this case: play it through) once and be done with it.

Average: 80.00%
Tilt: +/- 0.00%

For my little closing, I would like to point out that Herculean Effort is very paranoid about piracy. Super Jazzman has the most ridiculous protection I have ever gone through with an Indie Game. Even after downloading the full version, getting a password to unzip it and install it. You still have to put in a code when it boots up and then it’s only registered on one computer. A little overzealous if you ask me, but again it doesn’t really effect gameplay. I just thought it was an interesting factoid.

Verdict: 80%

Braid Review

October 13, 2008


Braid is a very commendable and entralling independent game by Jonathan Blow. First let me start off by saying that screenshots do not do this game justice. While the game is not pushing the graphical power of the Xbox, David Hellman’s art for the game is simply fantastic. The game has a unique water color look to it and the swirling colors and especially the parralax backgrounds can astonish and fit perfectly into this surreal sort of fairy tale. The story of braid is interesting and has a pretty good twist of an ending. It’s certainly one of the best XBLA stories out there. Since it’s all presented in text form, it does lose something that other full priced games have. Let’s get to it though, the best thing about Braid is the gameplay. It is a puzzle platform game revolving around time manipulation. This time manipulation reduces frustration (since if you die, you just rewind) and changes in each world keeping things very fresh.


Braid is doing everything right so far, but it does stumble. Braid is incredibly short and has little in the way of replay value (a speed achievement). While the shortness is refreshing (I really like that I’ve beaten the game, enjoyed it, experienced it and can now move on), 1 more world of puzzles with 1 more mechanic would have gone a long way to flesh out the package. The game is about $5 more expensive than a lot of the other XBLA games out there, but let’s be honest, this game deserves to have you $15 and was made by an indie studio rather than Capcom or some other uber developer. Still, I can see people’s complaints about price (as spoiled as they are) especially with the brevity of the game. My only other complaint about the game is the lack of different enemies/hazards (c’mon 2 enemies?) and a lack of graphical diversity (the opening stage looks to cool! why are all the levels sprawling green hills?).

Bottom line is that this game is not for everybody, but is a very delightful and engaging little title. It is a very unique game that is definitely worth your time and money. I downloaded the trial game and unlocked the full version before I was even finished with the trial. Give it a try, support an indie game developer, and discover the clever story twist.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 6/10

Average: 82.5%
Tilt: + 4.50%

Verdict: 87%

Switchball Review

October 7, 2008

Switchball is one of the best looking XBLA titles available (I think Undertow beats it, but that’s it). In addition, it is also a very entertaining and rewarding game. I guess you would call Switchball a puzzle game, but you certainly need some platforming skills to successfully roll your ball to the exit. The gamplay a revolves around…switchball-ing (sounds dirty)…switching your ball into other forms in order to complete tasks and move onto the exit. There’s the standard marble, the heavy metal ball, a bouncy airball, and a slick multifaceted powerball. The art direction in this game is superb. The world is a beautiful looking DaVinci inspired world with odd gyrocopters and perpetuates the idea that you are one marble in a complex machine or gadget. If you like short but sweet games, Switchball is definitely for you.

THE GOOD:
4 different balls to control with different abilities
Beautiful Graphics and unique, interesting worlds
Easy Controls! (Analog stick and the A button)

THE BAD:
Music/Sound is bargain basement and repetitive
There’s only about 30 levels
Time Medals are very Strict

All in all, this game is a great buy for an evening/weekend of relaxing gaming fun. It has a slow pace and easy controls so it can be played by a wide range of people. It’s too bad that the game gets frustrating when you start attempting to complete levels for even a bronze time medal. The music/sound could have been easily improved too, but it’s about par for other games like this one. Give the game a download and try the demo (on Xbox Live or the PC). If it grabs you, give it a purchase and you won’t be disappointed.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10

Verdict: 83%